in the lesson why does Sylvia keep the change

In the short story "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia keeps the change from the taxi because she does not respect Miss Moore or the lessons that Miss Moore tries to teach the children. Additionally, because Sylvia comes from a poor family, it seems that petty deceptions such as this are ways for her to get pocket money.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara, the narrator, an African American girl named Sylvia, tells of a new arrival to their low-income neighborhood named Miss Moore. Miss Moore takes it upon herself to advance the children's informal educations by leading them on excursions and trying to teach them lessons. In the story, Sylvia, her cousin Sugar, and some other kids from the neighborhood accompany Miss Moore to an expensive toy shop in a white neighborhood, where Miss Moore hopes to demonstrate societal differences to the children.

When they set out in two taxis, Miss Moore gives Sylvia a five dollar bill to use to pay for one of the taxis. The taxi costs less than a dollar, but instead of giving the change back to Miss Moore, Sylvia pockets it to spend later.

Sylvia keeps the change because she does not respect Miss Moore or her lessons. In fact, Sylvia despises her. She writes that Miss Moore has "nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup" and "we laughed at her." She adds that "we kinda hated her too" as an unwelcome addition to the neighborhood. The children do not enjoy Miss Moore's "boring-ass things for us to do." Instead of going on the excursion with Miss Moore, Sylvia would "rather go to the pool or to the show where it's cool."

Before they set out to the toy store, Miss Moore lectures the children about how they are "all poor and live in the slums," which Sylvia resents. When they arrive and Sylvia unexpectedly feels shame before they enter the store, her resentment increases. By the end of the day, she writes:

But she ain't so smart cause I still got her four dollars from the taxi and she sure ain't gettin it. Messin up my day with this shit.

We see, then, that the main reason that Sylvia keeps the change is that she does not respect Miss Moore. It is also evident that she comes from a poor family and has no other way to get pocket money than to obtain it by petty deceptions such as this.

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial